Did 'Caitlin Clark Effect' result in WNBA rookie's Team USA snub? Head coach's remarks surface amid controversy - Hindustan Times

Did 'Caitlin Clark Effect' result in WNBA rookie's Team USA snub? Head coach's remarks surface amid controversy

Jun 10, 2024 04:17 AM IST

New reports suggest Caitlin Clark's raging popularity was allegedly the reason why Team USA Basketball drifted away from her while weighing the Olympic roster.

Whether one would like to admit it or not, Caitlin Clark has admirably consolidated her position as the most popular women's basketball player in the US. Yet, the standout WNBA rookie sensation has been left out of the 2024 US Olympic roster, and the controversial decision is on everyone's mind.

FILE - Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark signs autographs for fans before the start of WNBA basketball game against the New York Liberty, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)(AP)
FILE - Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark signs autographs for fans before the start of WNBA basketball game against the New York Liberty, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray, File)(AP)

According to DailyMirror.co.uk, the WNBA's Chicago Sky vs Indiana Fever game, featuring Chennedy Carter's cheap shot on Clark, averaged 1.53 million viewers, resulting in a 346% spike in the audience compared to the professional league's 2023 regular season average on ESPN. Mail Sport also conveyed the stats reported in an NBA press release, confirming the viewership for this game, which marked Clark's first matchup against her longtime college rival Angel Reese, peaked at 2.19 million on ESPN. Per SportsMediaWatch.com's stats, the Saturday Fever-Sky game is now also reportedly marked the fourth-highest WNBA audience in the past 22 years. 

Agreeably, the staggering jump in audience numbers was attributed to the classic fumes of rivalry between the rookie stars and not just Clark's presence. Yet, Fever #22's fame rose new heights as each of these top 4 games have featured Clark and her team - her May 12 debut on ESPN2 (Fever vs Sun - 2.12M), May 18 Fever vs Liberty on ABC (1.71M) and May 20 Fever vs Connecticut on ESPN (1.56M).

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Despite the ever-rising boost to the WNBA viewership ushered in by Clark's arrival (not to erase the credit due to all other active players), the USA Basketball squad has not only snubbed Clark, but also dropped the golden opportunity to rake in all the attention and valuable ratings during the Olympic season. Ironically, the same uproarious attention tied to Clark's popularity has seemingly led to her exclusion from the upcoming Paris games. Here's why.

Why Caitlin Clark was (allegedly) snubbed by USA Basketball

In a recently published USA Today Sports report, two long-time US Basketball veterans, whose anonymity was maintained throughout the address, suggested all the emotional baggage that tags along with Clark had a lot to do with the decision making. Her Team USA snub allegedly played out while taking heed of the fervid reactions that would have followed had Clark been on the team and been offered a limited playing time considering the weight of the stacked roster of players.

One can't help but hypothetically envision how Clark's presence at the Olympics would have considerably ignited interest and headlines among the world's media representatives. Moreover, the Olympic roster's revelation couldn't have dropped at a worse time, especially when the 22-year-old secured a WNBA rookie record-tying seven 3's, scoring 30 points against Washington Mystics. The venue accounted for the largest WNBA crowd in 17 years, with 20,333 in attendance, among whom, hundreds honoured Clark's popularity by sporting her No. 22 jerseys in the crowd.

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Team USA coach takes heat for her comments on Caitlin Clark

Making matters worse, just as the news of Team USA missing out on making the most of Clark's hot ticket as an indisputable buzz magnet hit the Internet, the team coach's “eight-word” message about Fever's #22 also turned heads.

Team USA coach Cheryl Reeve, who's also the head coach of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, reportedly pointed out that she shares no consequential history with Clark. USA TODAY Sports reporter Nancy Armour wrote on X/Twitter, “When I asked Cheryl Reeve at USOPC Summit about Clark, she said, ‘I’ve never been in the trenches with her.’ Not even at a USA Basketball camp. Asking a coach to integrate someone she has no history with, at tournament with highest stakes, is a lot. A lot a lot."

However, that's not all Reeve has said about the 2024 draft's No. 1 overall pick. Previously, Reeve took flak upon hitting back at all the attention on Clark as she pushed for the social media hashtag “#theWismorethanoneplayer” while driving the spotlight back on the rest of the league.

In May, she wrote on her X feed, “ALSO in action tonight - @minnesotalynx vs @chicagosky 7pm CST. Though fans won't be able to watch, #Lynx fans can go to the Lynx app to follow along via play by play. Or if you are in market, come to the game...as we start the season off right ✅#12teams #theWismorethanoneplayer." Her words aren't lost on basketball loyalists, who have again redirected the focus to her previous remarks, alluding to the alleged politics possibly at play here.

As Team USA pledged its allegiance to a veteran cause, it typically did so to drive away from the chatter and focus on basketball. Ironically though, the officials have succeeded in achieving the exact opposite as severe and discontent reviews for the 12-person Olympic roster omitting Clark continue to pour in.

As for Clark's take on the snub, she expressed “no diappointment,” according to the media coverage by The Athletic. "I think it just gives you something to work for. That’s a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it’s just a little more motivation. You remember that.”

Caitlin Clark's loyal fanbase is already rooting for her to be a leading force on the potential 2028 Olympics roster, when Los Angeles will be hosting the international summer multi-sports event.

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